Hansen will be a happy man - Kayes

Steve Hansen 1566172535

His All Blacks got the job done in the historic Test at Trafalgar Park, beating a very good Pumas side 46-24.

What will please Hansen, though, is who and how the All Blacks achieved the win.


This was a starting XV missing Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty and Rieko Ioane. In their place was TJ Perenara, Richie Mo’unga in his first start, Ngani Laumape in his eighth Test and third start, Jack Goodhue in his fourth Test and Nehe Milner-Skudder returning after a year away from the side.

In the pack, Ardie Savea was at openside instead of Sam Cane and Shannon Frizell got his second Test at six, while Karl Tu’inukuafe was getting his first start after five appearances from the bench.

Then the injuries came with Laumape and Brodie Retallick both off inside 10 minutes, the experienced Sam Whitelock on at lock and Anton Lienert-Brown on at second five.

All of this against a Pumas side that dominated possession and territory and scored some wonderful tries in a contest that was tighter than the score suggests.

This wasn’t Baby Blacks - let’s be clear about that - but this was still a mixed up, re-shuffled team with a sprinkling of inexperience that had to work hard to overcome a tough opposition.

And best of all, it was some of the new and fringe All Blacks who led the way.

Frizell was outstanding - strong with the ball and sound on defence - as he featured repeatedly in the first half and caped an impressive match with a try in the second.

Tu’inukuafe was just as good in a scrum that dominated the Pumas in an area that is usually one of their strengths.

Savea was also good - strong over the ball, in the tackle and with the ball in hand - as was Jack Goodhue who just gets better with every game.

He must now, even though he has played only four Tests, be the first choice centre when and if everyone is fit.

And Lienert-Brown is proving to be Mr Consistent from the bench. Just as he did in Sydney, he was on early and showed how good he is, especially at creating space for others.

This match was Perenara’s 48th Test but only his 10th start. It was his finest performance. He scored two tries, cleared the ball well, was good in support of the ball and strong in defence and - most importantly - remained calm and clear headed.

Most rugby nations would give their left arm to start these guys, yet they are, for now, largely the back-up-boys in the All Blacks.

Which is why Hansen will be happy.

He knows to win a World Cup you need depth. Just think back to 2011 and how Stephen Donald came from whitebaiting to kick the penalty in the final.

Hansen now has great depth at prop and hooker with Dane Coles yet to play this year and Codie Taylor impressing more and more with each test.

Scott Barrett has found his feet as the third lock and there is decent cover there too in Jackson Hemopo but also Luke Romano, who is playing for Canterbury, and Patrick Tuipulotu who made a strong return with Auckland last week.

There are plenty of loose forwards, as ever, and now Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi has had a taste of the Big Show in Nelson as the third halfback.

Then there’s the backs. There’s really no position that lacks cover now and though Mo’unga was nervous and made too many errors in Nelson, he will settle down and improve.

Hansen likes to have as many players as possible with 30 Tests or more going into a World Cup (while leaving the door open for a “bolter” too).

There’s eight more Tests this year and four or five leading into the World Cup many in his squad will reach that tally.

It’s why, with less than a year to go, Hansen’s happy with how his World Cup plans are, once again, coming together.

Steve Hansen 1566172535




Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport. He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.


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